Before formulating the research problem and hypotheses, it is essential to dedicate yourself to building the theoretical framework. But do you know what this concept means? Many students reach the final year of graduation without understanding what that means.
Every research project always starts from a theoretical framework. In this GUIDE, you will better understand the meaning of the concept, its functions and how to do it correctly.
What is a theoretical framework?
The theoretical framework, also called theoretical model or theoretical basis, is a broad theoretical basis that serves to guide the production of an academic work.
Only with the theoretical framework defined is it possible to have the conceptual basis that will be used in the research. In addition, the student is also able to delimit the group of authors who will be referenced and who will be part of the discussion.
The theoretical framework involves the analysis of theories, research and antecedents considered valid for the study. In addition to books and scientific articles, other materials can be analyzed, such as internet pages, audiovisual material, essays, theses and expert testimonies.
In addition to exposing theories, the framework also highlights different theoretical approaches from previous works. It consists of the first major data collection of the investigation.
Functions of the theoretical framework
- It gathers information about the research problem and establishes a relationship between them;
- It helps to prevent mistakes that were made in other studies;
- The analysis of previous research guides on how to carry out the study;
- Expands the panorama, showing different perspectives on the same subject;
- It helps to establish hypotheses , which in the future will be confirmed or refuted;
- Serves as a basis for interpreting the survey results ;
Steps to make the theoretical framework
The elaboration of the theoretical framework is divided into two stages:
The literature review consists of identifying, obtaining and consulting books and other useful materials to achieve the research objectives. There are basically three types of information sources:
- Primary sources: first-hand data;
- Secondary sources: compilations that reprocess first-hand information;
- Tertiary sources: gather second-hand sources and are useful for detecting non-documentary sources.
Initially, gather primary sources and familiarize yourself with your field of study. If it is not possible to consult first-hand data, consider secondary and tertiary sources. They are accessed in directories, databases, search engines and specialist sites, based on keywords relevant to your search.
Once the sources are located, it is necessary to write down all the identification data. Use our GORB tool to format bibliographic references according to ABNT standards, considering the specificities of each document.
The next step is to record the analyzed materials. At the top of the form, write the bibliographic reference. Then write the idea extracted from the reference and the researcher’s opinion about this idea.
To check if your literature review is of quality, answer the questions:
- Have you gathered current references (no more than five years old)?
- Have you consulted reliable databases?
- Have you consulted at least four scientific journals that usually deal with your research topic?
- Have you looked for theses and dissertations on the topic of interest?
- Have you consulted one or more experts on the subject?
- Have you looked for books on the subject in at least two good libraries?
If the answer was “yes” to all questions, proceed to the next step.
Adoption of a theory or a theoretical perspective
Theory is an explanation that helps us understand events, situations and contexts. It is a set of concepts, definitions and propositions that present a systematic point of view regarding a phenomenon. The choice of a theory to support the research must align with the chosen focus.
The different theoretical perspectives, raised in the literature review stage, allow us to see several angles of the same object of study. However, for the work to be organized, it is very important to insert the research into a particular theoretical tradition. Thus, it is easier to structure the research problem and formulate the hypotheses.
Different theoretical frameworks lead to different research problems, which is why it is essential to seek an alignment between theory and the difficulty to be resolved.
New approach to theory
When there is a solid theory that consistently explains a phenomenon, you must refocus your research to make it relevant. Therefore, create new questions and broaden your horizons with a new application that considers another population and another space. Example: you read a survey on job satisfaction among the Japanese and you want to carry out a similar study in the city of Campinas.
The focus of the theoretical framework can be chronological, that is, it shows the evolution of a theory over time.
Drawing from a theoretical perspective
In certain areas of knowledge, there are not many theories available capable of explaining the studied phenomena. In this case, you must construct a theoretical perspective, which takes shape through the existence of parts of theories and empirical generalizations. Did not understand? Consider the example below:
The literature review also serves as a basis for the creation of empirical generalizations, that is, propositions proven in most of the research carried out. They are fundamental to define the hypotheses.
To be sure of choosing the best theories and empirical generalizations, answer:
- Who are the most important authors in your field of study?
- What aspects and variables were investigated?
- Is there any researcher who studied your research problem in another context?
Example of theoretical framework
Consider research on “Adolescent exposure to television programs with violent content”. The theoretical framework can follow the structure below:
1. The history of television
2. Types of television programs
3. Macrosocial effects of television
4. Uses of television
4.1 By children
4.2. by teenagers
4.3 By adults
5. Selective exposure to television
6. Television violence
7. Use of weapons by characters in movies, series and soap operas
When preparing the theoretical framework of your academic work, remember that it must be 100% aligned with the research problem, without deviating to other topics unrelated to the study. What counts is not the number of references consulted, but the depth of analysis of the aspects linked to the problem.